Case study―treating friends, family, colleagues and staff
Multi-disciplinary team-based practice settings provide a rich work environment for many health professionals practising in BC. At times, physicians and surgeons on such teams may be approached by their colleagues with requests for medical certificates, prescriptions or other forms of medical treatment.
A panel of the Inquiry Committee recently concluded a case with criticism after a registrant failed to meet the expectations in the practice standard, Treatment of Self, Family Members and Others Close to You.
A practice standard reflects the minimum standard of professional behaviour and ethical conduct on a specific topic or issue expected by the College of its registrants. Standards also reflect relevant legal requirements and are enforceable under the Health Professions Act, RSBC 1996, c.183 (HPA) and College Bylaws under the HPA.
A staff member working in a laser and cosmetic treatment clinic approached a physician regarding cosmetic skin treatment. Other team members had previously undergone treatments for free, in exchange for use of their images in marketing materials for the clinic. The staff member raised concerns about the consent process; specifically, the use of their images for advertising purposes.
The practice standard, Treatment of Self, Family Members and Others Close to You, sets out the College’s expectations of registrants as it relates to providing care and treatment to people who are not patients.
In defining “others close to you,” the practice standard refers to any other individual who has a personal or close relationship with the registrant, whether familial or not, where the relationship is of such a nature that it would reasonably affect the registrant’s professional judgment. This may include, but is not limited to, friends, colleagues, and staff.
Registrants must not provide medical treatment to themselves, family members or others close to them unless the medical condition is minor or urgent, and no other physician is readily available.
The scenario described above, whereby clinic employees were receiving cosmetic treatment in exchange for being models for the clinic, is in direct contravention of the practice standard as team members would be considered close, and these treatments would not be considered minor or urgent.
Following an investigation, the panel of the Inquiry Committee concluded the case with no criticism of the registrant for their consent process, nor were they critical of the registrant for the clinic’s advertising practices (e.g. use of client images). However, the panel was critical of the registrant for failing to meet expectations in the practice standard, including the fact that cosmetic injections are not considered minor or urgent, and the registrant should not have administered injections to staff on the team with whom they have a close working relationship.